Great Danes equipped to take bite out of rivals
EURO 2020 GROUP B
WHEN Denmark won Euro 92, 13 members of their 20man squad played for clubs in their homeland but the current crop of Danish stars are scattered across Europe. Ace playmaker Christian Eriksen won the Scudetto with Inter this season, skipper Simon Kjaer is across town at Milan, and Martin Braithwaite’s baffling career path has taken him from Middlesbrough to Barcelona in recent years, while Kasper Schmeichel, whose father Peter was part of Denmark’s class of 92, lifted the FA Cup with Leicester. There is a significant Premier League contingent in Kasper Hjulmand’s squad. Schmeichel and Tottenham midfielder Pierre-emile Hojbjerg are joined by centrebacks Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton) and Joachim Andersen, who spent 2020-21 on loan at Fulham. Hjulmand replaced the outof-contract Age Hareide only last year after the pragmatic Hareide rarely released the handbrake during qualifying. Seventeen of Denmark’s 23 goals came in three games against Georgia and Gibraltar while they drew twice against a limited Ireland side, dropped points in a goalless stalemate in Georgia, and needed three goals in the last six minutes to earn a 3-3 draw with Switzerland. The Danes demonstrated their defensive resolve in the Nations League under Hjulmand, drawing 0-0 at home to England and winning the reverse fixture 1-0, and they should prove hard to break down. Eriksen’s resurgence at Inter is a huge boost for Hjulmand, whose side won their first three World Cup qualifiers against Israel, Moldova and Austria by an aggregate score of 14-0 in March. That suggests the traditionally dour Danes could sparkle at these finals and their experience makes them a threat to the top teams.